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The Digital Penn Museum: New digital portal provides public with ease of access to museum collections

It was a bitter cold night in Philadelphia on January 8, 2014, but Dr. Steve Tinney, Deputy Director and Associate Curator-in-Charge of the Babylonian Section, still drew a crowd of several hundred people to the Penn Museum (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) to hear his talk, “Gilgamesh: Journeys to the End of the World.” Gilgamesh was a popular subject in a popular series: the “Great Voyages” lecture series that each month promised a different armchair journey to a different time and place. Since that night, more than 20,000 people have watched the talk—and the number continues to grow.

The Digital Penn Museum: New digital portal provides public with ease of access to museum collections
Red granite Sphinx of Ramesses II, (19th Dynasty, circa 1293-1185 BCE), weighs about 15 tons
and is the largest ancient sphinx in the Western Hemisphere [Credit: Penn Museum]
“Gilgamesh: Journeys to the End of the World,” the complete “Great Voyages” lecture series, and almost 200 other lectures, symposia, and special programs, have been recorded, and occasionally live-streamed, for Penn Museum audiences with internet access since 2010. Now, with the launch of The Digital Penn Museum, the Museum’s rich programmatic offerings join its online collections database and an extensive archive of scholarly and popular articles, websites, and blogposts, which are easily accessible and even “collectable,” making a virtual visit to the Penn Museum an adventurous, multifaceted experience.

Online Door to Cultures of the World

The Digital Penn Museum—a dramatic new way to explore the digital content on the Museum’s website—was conceived as a portal to the rich and growing array of digital content developed by the Museum, its staff, and scholars. On the site, guests can now build their personalized online experience, searching the collections database (now featuring almost 900,000 objects and more than 180,000 images), browsing over 1,100 videos and archival films, then watching or saving materials of interest via the MyFinds feature.

In addition, the portal links directly to the Museum’s deep Expedition magazine archive featuring articles on archaeology and anthropology going back to the first issue in 1958. Guests can also enter the Museum blog, and discover more than 800 posts authored by dozens of Museum staff and Penn students. Finally, a set of more than 40 “legacy” websites invite guests to explore online exhibitions, past physical exhibition online content, follow international research projects, and even try a few interactive experiences, including the popular opportunity to “Write your name in Cuneiform.”

“The Museum’s mission—to transform understanding of the human experience—carries with it the obligation to provide access to our rich international collections, high-quality programs, and ongoing research, both in the laboratories and around the world,” noted Julian Siggers, the Museum’s Williams Director. “The Digital Penn Museum provides us with the platform to do just that.”

Jim Mathieu, the Museum’s Head of Collections, Publications, and Digital Media, noted that these popular online resources are designed for diverse audiences, from scholars seeking specific data on an area in their field, to more casual visitors looking to learn about world cultures—and find out what the Museum has to offer. “Our ‘curated’ Highlights pages are designed with the new or casual visitor in mind. The Highlights pages pull together a wide range of digital resources about some of our key objects, like the colossal Sphinx from Memphis, the Ram-in-the-Thicket from Ur, or the Hasanlu ‘Lovers’—visitors can discover rich content throughout this new platform, and have an engaging experience as they do so.”

Now launched, The Digital Penn Museum will continue to grow, and guests interested in archaeology, anthropology, and world cultures, can expect to discover new content with each visit in the years to come.

Source: Penn Museum [January 05, 2017]

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